Brexit Thoughts, From Abroad


Publication History:

“Brexit Thoughts, From Abroad.” Log 38 (2016): 64-65

The text posted here is an earlier draft and it is different from the published version. Please only cite from copy in print

The reader must forgive my personal take on this matter. I never fought in a war, my house was never bombed and my property never seized—I lived in times of peace, prosperity and relative safety since I was born, and for the first time ever I am now among the civilian victims of an international conflict.  Don’t worry, I am not being shot at; like a few million legal residents of the UK, just about being deported.

I have no particular opinion for or against the European Union.  I have, I admit, a strong aversion to all feelings of tribal allegiance: I do not identify in any emotional way with the town where I was born, the region where I grew up, the languages I spoke as a child, or the religion I inherited from my parents.  I consider the nation state one of the most pernicious invention of the Romantic age.  For practical reasons, we sometimes need to manage matters that involve geographical borders, but in principle I am happy to live under the auspices of any territorial jurisdiction that upholds democracy, freedom, and the rule of law.  In fact, as far as I am concerned, the bigger the geographical extension of said jurisdiction, the better—as tribalism thrives on, and breeds, small homogeneous turfs.  Given the above, I had no interest in the raucous and often truculent debate that preceded the UK referendum last June.  Besides, I would not have been allowed to express my opinion had I had one.

Three hours after the results of the referendum were announced, my employer—University College London—sent a message to all staff.  After a few paragraphs of consolatory commonplaces, it warned all employees bearing a EU passport that their contracts could be terminated at any time by a decision of the UK government.  A few days later, said government announced its stance on the matter: future changes to UK immigration laws will be retroactive, hence all legal UK residents that happen to have been born in some European countries are subject to deportation.  All 3 million of them.

Nobody remarked that this is against international law, and a violation of human rights at a scale unprecedented in European history in times of peace.  Every day in the British media pundits, politicians and opinion makers discuss with sober detachment on the technicalities of the forthcoming deportation.  Would family ties matter?  The government has clarified that having resided in the UK for more than five or six years could help in most cases.  The number of deportees would then decline to around 1 million.

Most of my colleagues at work have adopted a business-as-usual attitude of bemused insouciance: the government cannot really mean that; it is absurd, unpractical, it cannot happen.  This is, I am told, exactly what my grandparents said when the Italian government introduced the first Racial Laws in 1938.  History proved them wrong.

(July 28, 2016)




“Brexit Thoughts, From Abroad.” Log 38 (2016): 64-65